2018 Update: We still stand by this advice on how to stop overthinking and worrying about the future, but you may also want to check out our more recent discussion of how do you deal with overwhelm.
What are your best tips to stop yourselves from overthinking, readers? How can you work through anxiety and excessive worrying about the future? We’ve talked about how to focus at work as well as how to deal with anxiety, but not in a long time — so let’s discuss how to stop overthinking. Reader C wonders…
I really enjoyed your article on how to prevent/stop tears at work. I have a similar issue that I’d like addressed: How to stop overthinking an upcoming “mystery” meeting. For example, this morning, we got an all-hands meeting put on our calendar for later in the day. And now my mind can’t stop racing thinking about what is going to be discussed at this “emergency” meeting! Last time we had a similar meeting, we found out my boss got fired. Any tips to stop that Type A mind from speculating?
Oooh, good question, C; I can’t wait to hear what the readers say, particularly since I am definitely occasionally guilty of worrying about the future — and sometimes have to tell myself to stop overthinking things. Some advice I’ve read over the years:
How to Stop Overthinking in the Short Term
- Laugh it up. Laughter can be a great remedy for anxiety — it helps to put things in perspective. A gratitude list (or the newer trend of ingratitude lists) may also be helpful — some of our tips on how to turn a bad day around may also be helpful.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes and choose one task to focus on — and possibly work somewhere away from distractions like email and social media. This may be as simple as saying, “I’m going to focus for 25 minutes on DOCUMENT X,” and just going to sit on the other side of your desk, instead of directly in front of your computer. (We’ve talked about other ways to manage your time if this is an issue!)
- Cardio. I always say I do cardio to “control my crazies” — so if you tend to be prone to overthinking things, make sure you’re scheduling your cardio! This may not help when you have a last minute meeting scheduled for work that’s making you anxious, but in the long-term I find that I’m more prone to anxiety and overthinking when I have not gotten my cardio in. When you’ve got hours between whatever event you’re overthinking, even a few cycles of a seven-minute Tabata cycle can be helpful (we JUST rounded up a few of these super short exercise options in a recent CorporetteMoms post on how to find time to work out).
- Clear your mind with meditation. Full disclosure: I stink at meditation and haven’t had the time to learn it — but even I get benefit (sometimes great benefit) from using this 60-second meditation exercise at Pixel Thoughts; I’ve also heard good things about the Headspace app. (Kate mentioned a few good options in her post on professional women and insomnia.)
- Admit defeat. If something major is about to go down and you’ll have the answer imminently, then just admit defeat. Try to think of something you can do that’s mindless but will still be productive: Clean your office. Catch up on CLEs and other typical things you may do if it’s a quiet office because of holidays or whatnot.
How to Stop Overthinking in the Long Term
If you’re prone to overthinking things in general (you know who you are), there are some other things to consider…
- Consider therapy (and yes, medication). I haven’t taken Xanax in years, but when I went through a period of my life where I seemed to be going down a lot of anxiety loops, the occasional Xanax really helped — at the time I said it was like blowing the foam off the cappuccino. (I was warned at the time that Xanax is very addictive — and that you don’t want to get pregnant within six months of taking it — so make sure you discuss that kind of stuff with your doctor when you go; you may also want to consider a more daily sort of medication.) We’ve also shared tips for making time for therapy even when you work a lot.
Readers, what are your best tips to stop overthinking? In general, have you ever struggled with anxiety, excessive worrying about the future, or more?
Picture via Stencil.